Real Name: Unknown
Aliases: East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker
Wanted For: Murder, Rape
Missing Since: May 1986
Details: The Sacramento area was terrorized by a brazen serial rapist who was nicknamed the "East Area Rapist". The rapist was suspected of at least forty-four rapes in Northern California in the 70's.
This unknown man first targeted women who lived alone, but eventually became more brazen and raped women who did NOT live alone. He bound and blindfold his victims and then roamed their house as he taunted and threatened their lives, then he raped them and left. When men were present, he often tied the man up in another room. He developed an odd ritual where he placed dishes on the heads of the man and woman and threatened their lives if the dishes fell and made noise.
The rapist eventually ventured down South to Southern California in 1979 and continued to terrorize Southern California residents until 1986. It was stated that he killed at least ten people in the Southern California area during this time period.
His first few Southern California victims were couples who were home together when they were attacked. None of them survived. Dr. Robert Offerman and his girlfriend Debra Manning were shot to death in Dr. Offerman's Santa Barbara home on December 30, 1979. A few months later March 13, 1980, Charlene and Lyman Smith were found murdered in their Ventura home; authorities believed that the Ventura and Santa Barbara murders were connected. The killer then headed further South to Laguna Niguel where he killed Keith Harrington and then raped and also murdered Keith's wife Patricia on August 19, 1980.
The next victim was a woman who was home alone named Manuela Witthuhn. Manuela was killed on February 27, 1981, while her husband was spared because he was in the hospital at the time. Then, back in Santa Barbara, between July 26 and 27, 1981, Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez were brutally murdered in Cheri's home.
Suprisingly the killer stopped his murderous rampage for almost five years until May 4, 1986 when he came upon 18-year-old Janelle Cruz of Irvine, California. Janelle was unable to go with her family on a vacation to Mexico and thus left to tend to the house while the rest of her family was gone. The killer entered her home that night and sexually assaulted and murdered her. Janelle's rape and murder was the last suspected murder of the rapist.
In 1996, Orange County Sheriff's Department detectives linked the ten murders to one killer through DNA. In 2001 a criminalist connected the East Area rapes to the spree of serial killings throughout California through by use of DNA evidence.
Police believe that the killer may be responsible for other murders, such as the 1975 murder of Claude Snelling and the February 2, 1978, murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore. Authorities believe that the killer has not been heard from since 1986 because he is either in prison for a different crime or dead in a different state. It is possible that if he is dead in another state the authorities in that state don't realize that this dead person is a serial rapist and killer who is wanted in California. The killer is described as a man who is 5'7" to 5'11" with blue or hazel eyes and in his 50's if he's alive today.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 3, 2001 episode.
Another criminal rapist featured on Unsolved Mysteries was the Boston Rapist.
- A Serial Killer in Suburbia
- An Analysis of the Crimes Committed by the EAR/ONS
- Original Night Stalker on Wikipedia